Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who Made God?

Yesterday I got an email from a parishioner. Her 5 year old grandson had asked, "Who made God?" She said that she and her daughter were stumped as to how to answer her grandson's question.

And so, I ask you: Who made God? Is it something that you've ever wondered? What answer were you given when you asked your parents/teachers/clergy person? What answer have you given a child?

I'll give you my answer to her in a couple of days, but I'd like to hear what you think first.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Responding to Jesus

The gospel reading for Sunday, Aug. 3 was Matthew 14:13-21. In this story, Jesus tells the disciples to feed the crowd that has gathered. The disciples respond with fear, "But we only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish." Essentially, the disciples are panicked because they don't have enough. Yet Jesus blesses what they have and gives it to them to distribute. When they are finished, more than 5000 people have been fed and there are 12 baskets of food remaining.

The gospel reading for Sunday, Aug. 10 was Matthew 14:22-33. In this story, Jesus walks on water towards the disciples who are in a boat. Peter, in a bold act of faithfulness, asks Jesus to call him to walk on the water too. Jesus responds, "Come." Peter begins to walk towards Jesus on the water, but suddenly aware of his circumstances (and the wind) becomes frightened and sinks. Jesus catches him and pulls him up.

As I reflect on these stories I see some striking similarities.

1. Jesus commands them to do something impossible:
  • Feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.
  • Walk on water.
2. The disciples respond either with fear or faith:
  • We don't have enough to feed all those people. (fear)
  • Peter says, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." (faith)
3. The disciples do what Jesus has asked:
  • 5000 men (plus women and children) are fed, with plenty to spare.
  • Peter walks on the water, until he panics and sinks.
What do I gather from this? Maybe a couple of things.

First, it would seem that fear and panic are common responses to what Jesus calls us to do. The disciples panic, sometimes as their initial reaction, sometimes as their subsequent reaction. Panic is not an unusual thing for humans to experience when Jesus calls us.

Secondly, I think that doing what Jesus calls us to do, even when it seems impossible, changes lives. Hungry people are fed. Peter walks towards Jesus on water. Things change when we respond to Jesus' call. In God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

I'm left pondering what all of this means. It would seem that fear and panic are a natural human response to being called to do the seemingly impossible. But, somehow, if we can believe that Jesus has given us what we need to do what He is calling us to do, things change, the world is changed, lives are transformed. Does this make sense? Do you see the same similarities?

How do you see yourself? Are you the disciple that panics at Jesus' initial request? Or are you the disciple that responds in bold faithfulness at first, and then panics half-way through? (I, by the way, am the one that panics at Jesus' first request and will put off responding for as long as I possibly can. Talk about stuck!)

How do we learn to get past our fears, either initially or in the midst of it all, and allow Jesus to work through us? Is this something that we can practice? Do we learn to be more faithful each time we try?

Let me know what you think.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Changing the Distribution System

Last Sunday, I preached about changing the distribution system. The gospel text for Sunday was Matthew 14:13-21, the story about the feeding of 5000 people. As I read this story, I realized that when the disciples began to panic, "How could we possibly feed all those people? We don't have enough!" that Jesus did not panic with them. Jesus did not give them a pep talk about doing the best they could with what they had. Jesus did not form a committee to try to collect all the food that anyone else might have brought. Jesus did not even perform a miracle and turn rocks into bread or grass into fish. Jesus simply blessed what they had and asked them to distribute it. And there was enough.

As we look at the state of our world today, we see 20% of the world's population (980 million people) living on less than $1 a day and we ask ourselves, "How can we possibly feed all those people? We don't have enough!" But maybe the truth is that we do have enough. Could it be possible that God gave us enough to feed the world? Maybe the problem is that God put us in charge of the distribution system.

One little boy that I read about, Drew Friend, changed the distribution system in his town. You can read about it at Drew's Big Give. I started trying to think of other ways that we can begin to change the distribution system. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • Donate food regularly to a local food pantry. And not just a couple of leftover things from the pantry, but a bag or two of real food from the grocery store. (For those of you at St. Martin's, you can bring it to church on Sunday and we'll get it to SPAN for you).

  • Buy a backpack full of school supplies and bring them to your local elementary school. I'm sure that children will arrive at school with nothing and the teachers will know who needs it.

  • Support a child's education in Haiti. For $160 a child gets tuition and meals for an entire year. That's so cheap! Contact the front office if you want to support a child.
Who has other ideas about changing the distribution system? Post some comments, I'd like to learn from you.